Memoir

Far From Home

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Far from home – no, that is not a reference to a Spiderman movie. It is more of a homesick feeling. Yes, it is exhilarating. But also, no –  it’s a churn in the stomach. Anxiety and excitement, fear of the unknown but thrilling adventures and experiences awaits your arrival. A sign labeled ‘independence’ swings like a pendulum in your mind. I’ve got this, you motivate yourself. But in the first few moments, the hard punch of realization is overwhelming: ‘You are alone in a foreign land.’

That was the first blow I received as I stepped down from the airplane and let my eyes fall upon the mountainous view in front of me. This was Cyprus. This was where the next four years of my life were to be polished. Ironically, some titled it, ‘Cyprus to apna ghar hai’ (Cyprus is our own home) which I begged to differ. It’s a small island sandwiched between Turkey and Greece. Divided into South and North. I was in the North – governed by the Turkish government. The crisp, cold wind of the island pinched my cheeks and the sun’s warmth was barely noticeable. It was nearly the end of February. Spring must’ve been next door. But no, it wasn’t. I was still in the middle of winter. The bus trailed into the university and my heart raced. Thrilling adventures, a whisper swayed. Undoubtedly, the university was gorgeous. Forests surrounded the faculties, the leaves on trees slowly recovering from the harsh winter, bathing the university in fresh greenery. Well, almost. It was still winter. It had drizzled when I arrived. Not bad, I thought. After settling in, having my first ‘doner’ or shawarma, trying to explore the university and getting lost, being followed by a stray dog because I carried my leftover food, the night finally fell. And slowly as I laid in my bed, the pain from the first blow, the ‘homesickness’ crept up, a feeling which I carried for the next two months. 

Even now, I just want to curl into a ball, close my eyes, and wish that I was back home. Morning after morning, I open my eyes to face the same four-walled room of my college dormitory: a wooden wardrobe, a long study table with a study lamp perched on the side, a small counter with my supposed breakfast/lunch/dinner and a mini fridge that only has a handful of items that are probably reaching their expiry date. A window with a view of the forest that sits behind my dormitory, the sky changing colors. The view that is supposed to bring me serenity, some sort of comfort whilst I stare at its face. And yet, the cycle of how day turns into night and the night turns into day keeps switching places. The hazy, mundane routine: get up, get dressed, eat a light breakfast because my body resists feeding itself properly, go out, attempt to focus while my brain childishly daydreams, get back, eat a light meal (preferably instant noodles because I am too tired), and fall back to sleep. And as I descend into slumber, the reel of my home’s comfort begins to play. 

Mama is sizzling onions and garlics in oil. She has already begun preparing dinner. She might add chicken or meat next, but today she just fries the onions with cumin, adding on top a few whole dried red peppers. She smiles as I peek into the kitchen, knowing I was lured in by the crackle and succulent smell of the hot simmering oil that she now pours over the lentils. She has the chicken marinated or a mixture of meat kebabs ready. In this house, we don’t serve daal chawal (lentil rice) as it is. A side dish of either potato kebabs, fried lamb chops or chicken tikka is always served next to it. She’d prepare those at the end, after the rice. 

Baba is in the living room, his phone on his lap. His snores echo through the walls. A nature show of some sort has been left playing on his phone, about some animal going extinct. As usual, the volume is at its peak, bringing the whole house to listen to what he’s watching. Someone will eventually turn his phone off, setting it on the table. Soon the clock will strike nine and Dadi jaan will turn on the television, and as always she’ll struggle to navigate the channel that will air the late-night show. And once it’s put on, it will go on until 10 o’clock while we have our dinner. After that, everyone will gather in the living room. A sweet dish being served, perhaps made of toasted bread and rose-scented milk topped with nuts, and a tray with cups of freshly brewed chai or qahwa if Baba is in the mood, will be brought in. We’ll sit for hours and listen to the latest updates in the family or a photo album from the past will open – parr Dada jaan’s remarkable rags to riches story. More stories of how much of a rascal Abu was as a child. I wonder why his mischief was replaced with softness and humility by the caress of time – God knows. The tales of my elders’ youth goes on and on. The cups of chai sit empty, the remains of the sweet dish are a few cardamom pods. The clock yawns to 12 A.M, the curtains slowly fall. And the reel of the dream has finished playing. 

There’s a loud sound coming from somewhere I cannot understand. A siren. As my eyes flick open to the blank ceiling above me, I turn to the side to realize the blaring sound was my alarm – a signal to return back to the hamster wheel.

Fatima is a 19 year old who was raised in the Arab lands, but is originally from Pakistan. When not exploring her created wonderland, she is either trying out a new recipe (not burning the kitchen down) or hitting the books to achieve her science degree.

1 Comment

  1. Amazing experience! After reading this I wonder why I didn’t get chance to stay away from my house to explore new world. Wish you all the best..every single word of yours attract me . Keep it up!

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